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Will Smith, Jesse Jackson, Chris Rock Support Dr. Boyce Watkins and Russell Simmons’ Campaign Against Mass Incarceration

trioA coalition of over 150 celebrities and public figures all came together to support an open letter to the president written by Dr. Boyce Watkins and Russell Simmons.  In the letter, Simmons and Watkins ask President Barack Obama an Attorney General Eric Holder to address the mass incarceration epidemic, which has impacted millions of families across America.

Other celebrities, scholars and public figures from all walks of life have signed onto the open letter, including Ron Howard, Nicki Minaj, the presidents of Morehouse and Spelman College, Mark Wahlberg, John Legend and Michelle Alexander (author of “The New Jim Crow”).

The coalition is asking that the president double down on his efforts to change the United States’ criminal justice policy from that of a punitive, suppression-based model to one that favors evidence-based prevention and rehabilitation. According to Department of Justice data, the U.S. leads the world in the incarceration of its own citizens, both on a per capita basis and in terms of total prison population. More than 500,000 of the 2.3 million people behind bars in the U.S. are incarcerated for nothing more than a nonviolent drug offense.

“It is critical that we change both the way we think about drug laws in this country and how we generate positive solutions that leave a lasting impact on rebuilding our communities,” said Russell Simmons. “We need to break the school to prison pipeline, support and educate our younger generations and provide them with a path that doesn’t leave them disenfranchised with limited options.”

Other activists, humanitarians and celebrities have endorsed the letter, including: Sir Richard Branson, Will Smith, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Scarlett Johansson, Ron Howard, Jennifer Hudson, Demi Moore, Eva Longoria, Rev. Al Sharpton, Mark Wahlberg, Harry Belafonte, Jada Pinkett Smith, Cameron Diaz, Urban League President Marc Morial, Nicki Minaj, Chris Rock, Russell Brand, John Legend, Michelle Alexander (author of The New Jim Crow), Rev. Jesse Jackson, John Wilson (President of Morehouse College), LL Cool J, NAACP President Ben Jealous, to name a few (to see a full list of public figures who’ve signed the letter, click here). The coalition suggests that the President continue to take a number of reformative actions, including extending the Fair Sentencing Act to all inmates who were sentenced under the 100-to-1 crack/powder disparity, supporting the principles of the Justice Safety Valve Act of 2013 (which allows judges to set aside mandatory minimum sentences when they deem appropriate), and supporting the Youth PROMISE Act.

Dr. Boyce Watkins added: “The letter is intended to be a respectful appeal to the Obama Administration asking that we develop productive pathways to supporting families that have been harmed by the War on Drugs. Countless numbers of children have been waiting decades for their parents to come home, and America is made safer if we break the cycle of mass incarceration. Time is of the essence, for with each passing year that we allow injustice to prevail, our nation loses another piece of its soul. We must carefully examine the impact of the War on Drugs and the millions of living, breathing Americans who’ve been affected. It is, quite simply, the right thing to do.”

Misguided drug laws and draconian sentencing requirements have produced profoundly unequal outcomes for communities of color. Although rates of drug use and selling are comparable across racial and ethnic lines, blacks and Latinos are far more likely to be criminalized for drug law violations than whites. 2.7 million children are growing up in U.S. households in which one or more parents are incarcerated. Two-thirds of these parents are incarcerated for nonviolent offenses. One in nine black children has an incarcerated parent, compared to one in 28 Latino children and one in 57 white children.

“So called ‘tough on crime’ policies have failed our nation and its families, while ‘smart on crime’ policies work,” said NAACP President & CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous. “When we know that drug treatment is seven times more effective than incarceration for drug addicts, basic human decency demands our nation makes the switch. The fate of hundreds of people and the children who need them home and sober hang in the balance. Great progress is being made in states from New York to Georgia with strong bipartisan support. The time has come for all of us to do all that we can. The future of our families, states, and nation demand it.”

The coalition hopes their letter will not only spark more meaningful conversations about the War on Drugs in the White House, but also encourage the public to be more actively engaged on these pressing issues.

To read the full letter to President Obama and to view the complete list of supporters, please visit http://www.yourblackworld.net/lettertothepresident/

 

44 Responses to Will Smith, Jesse Jackson, Chris Rock Support Dr. Boyce Watkins and Russell Simmons’ Campaign Against Mass Incarceration

  1. charles e. murray Reply

    May 6, 2013 at 7:59 pm

    praeivet prison is another from of slavery and they are target our young blackman 18 to 25 strong men. need solution to problum

  2. Kenyaspeaks Reply

    April 16, 2013 at 4:22 pm

    Why is it that the black community considers our leaders to be celebrities? That is not heard of in other groups.

  3. Rev. George Brooks Reply

    April 11, 2013 at 2:42 pm

    Okay, I’m certainly with you black leaders on this. But
    when are the massive marches going to take place, and continue until justice is achieved, rather than this mere
    talk and begging campaign, which is all we blacks do now,
    that is not ending up with any results. Also, when are
    these black leaders going to call on the president and
    government to track down whoever is bringing the drugs
    (and guns) into black neighborhoods in the first place,
    and demand that they be caught and long-termed JAILED. Are the leaders afraid to take on this last issue? And lastly,
    when are all of us blacks going to get a handle of these
    weak-minded, uneducated black youth of ours and get them
    to stop making fools of themselves by getting involved in
    drugs in any way (use or sales) in the first place. Which
    they continue to do, even though they already see what is
    taking place with other blacks down at the courthouses.
    How weak and stupid can we be? — Rev. George Brooks

    — Rev. George Brooks

  4. ST Reply

    April 10, 2013 at 7:04 pm

    This is a fight worth taking up. Just be specific in how to turn the tide. Americans WILL change the gun laws and anything else, they decide to change. It doesn’t matter if change doesn’t come tommorrow. When we keep pushing for and demanding change, it comes. Just look at all of the social taboos of the past that are now the norm. Just never give up.

  5. Dawn A Reply

    April 10, 2013 at 5:47 pm

    This is long over due I have a love one there who were just at the scene of the crime and was sentence to 15 years at the age of 19 years old. He has spent mostly the beginning of hi adult life in prision and I notice that he has a hard time socializing with others face to face. H feels that he is left in the dark in some case he is even though he is shared of daily activities of the outside world. I love him dearly and want him to be able to have a conversation with me on his visit,you see I live in Ohio and he is way in Marenisco,Michigan a 10 hour drive and he is worth every second of it. The bible stes that It is not good for man to be alone or left to himself.

  6. blacjk jones Reply

    April 10, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    We are so tangled in this WEBB of SOCIAL ILLS–I don”t think we know if we’re COMING or GOING—or both—I am sure there are many innocent persons incarcerated , the question is–Who are the innocent?—-There will never be a 100% correct answer to that question—unless everybodys freedom is compromised in an attempt to flush out drug dealers –It’s almost impossible–Let’s start with the schools–what happened to WOOD WORK for the Guys?, DRAMA, MUSIC, SCHOOL PLAYS and other activities to keep our children interested— these BORING schools are just as bad as prison for our children–A good check up on our TEACHER’s (HUMAN BEING NEVERTHELESS and so called ADULTS) to make sure School is not about “teacher’s PETS and other unfair happenings in our schools —This “MESS” is gonna take a “MIRACLE’ to UNRAVEL—-and a computer blog will never work–”-HANDS ON EVERYBODY –”HANDS ON”!! PEACE!!!

  7. BOYCE WATKINS INCARCERATED BROTHER Reply

    April 10, 2013 at 3:27 am

    I SUPPORT IT TOO, FOR OBVIOUS REASONS.

  8. Henry Malom Reply

    April 9, 2013 at 8:47 pm

    If this Referendum is implemented immediately as the war on drugs was a nation wide implementation and did not take 50 yrs. to get that ball rolling, it’s one step of many others needed in leveling the playing field.But if it takes 50 to 100 years of filibustering before any reforms and reviews of not only none v*****t drug convictions but also those convictions on controversial and circumstantial evidence as well as those conviction based upon a past conviction being the heaviest burden of proof prosecutors had to render guilty verdicts as if once convicted a person will never change but is hopelessly forever cultivating criminal mental and social dispositions.If this ball is not immediately effective,then it’s no more than a false flag carried by leading figures only out to covertly serve themselves and present statuesque.Case and point:voters ID the modern face of the pole Tax,only the illusion that progressive steps have been taken while stuck at a stand still.

  9. Dr. Boyce I commend you on your effort to fight mass incarceration of our people. Also the effort of bringing celebrities into the fold to bring much needed media attention. As you are well aware that this system of policing is based on the oppression and control of the former slaves.

    Ive been in law enforcement for 23 years and the elders of black law enforcement all know that Eric Holder is PRO- POLICE. His is not or have yet to address the prevalent issue in oversight of policies procedures and criminal law in our Justice System from Police to Courts to Incarceration.

    As far as our President. With all the love and respect with his accomplishments, he back stepped on the Henry Gates incident when he had the opportunity to create national dialogue on Police Criminality and Accountability. His statement for Trayvon Martin was noble but a little too late!

  10. parvenu Reply

    April 9, 2013 at 7:52 pm

    Dr. Watkins I have been trying to contact you regarding many issues facing our people without success, so I will briefly outline some here. Even though your current big push is to effectively combat the explosion in mass incarcerations that is happening accross the country, piling on celebrities will certainly attract attention, but in the last analysis will produce no tangible results.

    As many commentators have written in response to this post – — black folks themselves are the prime contributors to this problem, mainly through ignorance. I agree, but I don’t “blame the victim”. African-Americans suffer from the one social nourishment that they need to improve and take control of their lives. That vital missing social
    “vitamin” is COMMUNICATION that addresses the UNIQUE NEEDS of our ethnic group. Many decades ago we had a strong middleclass group of Negro Newspapers that served regions sround the nation. The later generations obsessed by the ultimate prize of our FULL integration with all of the institutionalized social mechanisms created to service the evolutionary needs of the majority white population neglected the struggling black newspapers, and they all virtually disappeared. Now our current and future generations are dependent on the existing social communication channels that have little concern for our social needs except to provide amusement for white folks in concert with their evolutionary needs.

    We have been handed the means for building our own unique communication network, and the kicker is that virtually all of our youth know how to effectively use the hardware and
    apps that form the framework of the most intense experience of this new technology. What is required the actual structuring of the communications vehicle capable of meeting the great diversity of the evolutionary needs of our African-American youth. The time for doing such a communication project is NOW. If we delay we may not be able to match up the components, namely the structure to the user population..

    Such a communication facility would be able to inform our people that the looming threat for continues growing mass incarceration will not be fixed by petitions to our first black president. The two largest private prison corporations hmade over 2 billion dollars last year. Both GCA and CCA are in the process of becoming REITS (Real Estate Investment Trusts) for one single reason – to make their Wall Street Stock attractive to the LARGE STATE PENSION FUNDS. You see when these private prison corporations become REITs they will start paying DIVIDENDS to stock holders. When you consider that bank CDs pay lesss than a tenth of one percent interest , an offering of a 10% DIVIDEND (or higher) becomes a very attractive investment for the pension funds. Now check this out , how many black folks work for state and city municipalities, where they have a weekly deduction going into a pension fund towards their retirement? If these pension funds start picking up GCA or CCA stock, then the money from a lot of black folks is flowing into these private prison corporations for expansion to build new prisons which have to be filled by more people. This accounts for so many states now resorting to new “stop and frisk” laws aimed at young black men. Local law enforce needs to increase the flow of bodies into these new GCA and CCA prisons. So there it is the sweat of many hard working black employees could wind up financing the great expansion of the MASS INCARCERATION that you all are fighting against. However, we must organize to petition these state and city pension funds NOT TO INVEST IN ANY PRIVATE PRISON CORPORATION, and if they are invested DIVEST NOW!!

  11. Ken Bright Reply

    April 9, 2013 at 7:22 pm

    Thats what I’m talking about. All it takes is the RIGHT 1 to step forward. Russell Simmons is him, obviously!

  12. Barbara Reply

    April 9, 2013 at 2:59 pm

    In order to get a positive result with high incarceration, let me give you your first hurdle. Start with Alabama and I I promise you the road will be made easy. There is no justice here, no quality education, and no jobs.

  13. Peter D. Slaughter Reply

    April 9, 2013 at 2:40 pm

    A vast % of black people who watch way to much tv and do not read have no clue as to how this situtation on a large scall
    e is very sinister.
    For the most part right in the faces of many black people and the world is basically updated slavery and g******e in full effect.

    In spite of a so-called black president being elected and relected people are to blind to even see g******e,eugenics and population going down now.
    You mean we have to get some black entertainers to say something and make some noise about this and we can’t get enough regular black people to being so passive and apathe
    tic. Right now if Ida B. Wells she could see just how disgrasraceful this has become on a large scale.
    It might be to late for real…

  14. Mah'Gee Reply

    April 9, 2013 at 2:40 pm

    Well what can I say….I have been on this planet for 73+1 years. I just want to know why we let “white” peoples tell us not to get educated? Why since we became “integrated” I graduation rate has fallen? Our black teacher ratio to black kid have fallen? I read Willie Lynch’s letter to slave owners in the 17th Century? when he said SO you are burning up your property, hanging them, and mutilating them. u are losing money on your property. I have a great solution used in Europe Start telling your overseers to begin selling the idea to your slaves,,pit the young slaves against the old slaves, the women against the men (saying black men are no good) (black women are no good) fair skin against dark skin people, dark skin people are bad, ugly, and dumb…(our black children hate themselves, they pick the white doll over the black doll). our young men hate themselves, therefore they k**l anyone that look like themselves Plantation mentality is still here…the prisons are the new factories (35 cent/hr) the projects & new housing are the breeding farms…babies have the same fathers. OUR black people make the least money, We still do not have civil rights (MLK) human rights(Malcolm X) Freedom (Frederick Douglass, WWB, H Tubman) the devil is busy don’t let him WIN!

  15. Mah'Gee Reply

    April 9, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    Well what can I say….I have been on this planet for 73+1 years. I just want to know why we let “white” peoples tell us not to get educated? Why since we became “integrated” I graduation rate has fallen? Our black teacher ratio to black kid have fallen? I read Willie Lynch’s letter to slave owners in the 17th Century? when he said SO you are burning up your property, hanging them, and mutilating them. u are losing money on your property. I have a great solution used in Europe Start telling your overseers to begin selling the idea to your slaves,,pit the young slaves against the old slaves, the women against the men (saying black men are no good) (black women are no good) fair skin against dark skin people, dark skin people are bad, ugly, and dumb…(our black children hate themselves, they pick the white doll over the black doll). our young men hate themselves, therefore they k**l anyone that look like themselves Plantation mentality is still here…the prisons are the new factories (35 cent/hr) the projects & new housing are the breeding farms…babies have the same fathers. OUR black people make the least money, We still do not have civil rights (MLK) human rights(Malcolm X) Freedom (Frederick Douglass, WWB, H Tubman) the devil is busy don’t let him WIN!

  16. David E. Kelly Reply

    April 9, 2013 at 2:34 pm

    Please offer solutions rather than attack Mr. Watkins. When you do that it shows that you have been part of the problem all along.

  17. David E. Kelly Reply

    April 9, 2013 at 2:26 pm

    We cannot buy into the mercantilism of evil and expect to prosper or have God’s favor. The gambling, tobacco, a*****l, drugs, p*********y and other vices that have caused so much harm and d***h to Americans should not be the vehicles that we use to uplift ourselves. Why not build our own factories?We have invented everything in this nation anyway, so why not completely take back our culture, our inventions, our labor and our peace?

  18. David E. Kelly Reply

    April 9, 2013 at 2:19 pm

    My father always told me if we do not discipline ourselves then someone else will. Black men must step up to the plate to put a halt to the rotten behavior of some of their sons who have devastated our communities with the lewd, the crass and the wicked behavior.

    • James Nicholas Reply

      April 10, 2013 at 1:33 am

      amen

  19. David E. Kelly Reply

    April 9, 2013 at 2:10 pm

    Also, those who chose to use drugs and distribute the drugs must end their behaviors and learn how to use their mind, hands and the knowledge that is readily available to create legal and satisfying work for themselves, so that, they will be able to take care of their families and themselves. Black America must become industrious again like our fathers and grandfathers were. The kids must learn to paly instruments and compose music like so many of us did back in the day, because the evil rap music is bringing them down and shedding a bad light on us all around the world as the FCC allows this form of entertainment to flourish. We must take immediate steps to turn this all around.

  20. BARBBF Reply

    April 9, 2013 at 1:53 pm

    What a stupid letter. I can’t believe someone actually wrote:

    “Your hard work and leadership on issues affecting the unrepresented classes of people in our nation have served as an inspiration to many of us who hope for brighter futures for all Americans..”

    What hard work and leadership? What hard work is it to keep you own personal k**l list? His “leadership” consisted of supporting the illegal invasion of Libya with US taxpayer’s $$$ and without the approval of Congress. His “leadership” consists of him being complicit in the deaths of more Africans than any US president in recent history. His “leadership” includes deporting more aliens (1.4 million) than Bush, Clinton, Nixon combined…and increasing the use of predatory drones from 54 (during the 8 years of Bush in the White House) to over 400 in the first 3 Obama years in the White House. His “leadership” includes the deaths of over 3000 men, women and children..including the 16 year old American who went searching for the remains of his father who had been murdered in a previous drone strike. Did that inspire the writers of the letter to Obama? Does this?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bqqz_KLU4Ys

  21. David E. Kelly Reply

    April 9, 2013 at 1:50 pm

    I think that this is a great cause, but if the law enforcement community is not ridden of the n**i like behavior of its membership, then nothing will change. So, the FOP leadership must be approached and warned about the continuance of their wickedness and evil that they impose upon the people and what consequences there are if they do not change their practices of discrimination, racism and the intimidation of black people in America. http://lnkd.in/UDJ7Z3

  22. Truthbeliever Reply

    April 9, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    Mr. Watkins will stop at nothing to get his name before the President. He is determined to be noticed for something.

    BTW, if you think all these folk incarcerated ” for nonviolent drug offenses” are there for the FIRST time, you’re going to be in for a rude awakening. None of these people will be first-offenders, and while their incarceration rests upon a final “drug” charge, they will have had multiple arrests for a variety of other infractions.

    Have you ever noticed that law-abiding working-class people aren’t looking for reduced prison sentences or plea deals?

  23. PB Short Reply

    April 9, 2013 at 12:23 pm

    The problem with MASS-INCARCERATION is not the USA JUST_US system…

    The problem is with Black people; as the old saying goes, ignorance of the law is no excuse…

    When you nine (9) out of ten (10) Blacks taking plea deals, and pleading guilty because of their ignorance, then there is nothing you can do about that…

    You go to any city in America, and Black folks will tell you, you better take that deal, these white folks don’t play here…and this is all too common among Blacks…

    1) Never give up your right to “REMAIN SILENT”…

    2) Never give up your right to a “SPEEDY TRIAL”…

    These are the most common rights we give up as a whole…I have been charged with every crime under the SUN, just for being Black…held in jail with a high bond for months waiting to go to trial…put in cells with thugs, and had to fight daily, because the people think that I will plea guilty to their erroneous charges…

    NEVER, to strong for that, my mind is not week…

    You have Black court appointed attorneys convincing their clients to plea guilty, instead of the attorney doing their job to investigate a case; I guess it is a lot easier to get $30,000.00 to convince your own race to plea guilty, then to have to work for the money and help convince a jury they are not guilty…

    There is nothing your “NOT the Black people’s President” can do for you…it is like education, it must start in the home…but for some reason, families are first one’s to convince you to take the deal…

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